I am shocked and horrified at all the bile that’s been flung around on social media lately and, judging by some appalling clips online, out in the world too. MPs who see themselves as progressive are rushing to support a Tory-led reform and women who are asking for time to think about the consequences are being shouted down and no-platformed.
Your rights versus mine?
I’ve been called a ‘TERF’ and a ‘bigot’ in Facebook conversations, not because I object to trans rights – just like all those MPs, I believe socialism demands safety and recognition for all, not just for those ‘like us’, whoever ‘we’ may be but to all, right up to the point where one group’s needs clash with those of another group. But that’s the point where you need to pause, have a widespread conversation, and find a way forward that suits everyone. That is where we’ve got to with trans rights.
That label ‘TERF’ suggests the women’s movement is full of people who object to trans people. “You are denying my right to exist,” some are saying. Not so. What many women object to is a proposal galloping into law whilst those who have doubts and questions about it are being shouted down.
So what is the problem?
For the first time in my life, I find myself saying “thank goodness for the Evening Standard”. Not being a bunch of progressive thinkers, they didn’t fall into the trap so many progressives have fallen into, and they published this…
… the points made in that article are not, to my mind, arguments against trans rights but they are issues that need to be discussed and allowed for before the proposed GRA reform goes through. Many in the women’s movement are trying to have those discussions – and being ‘no-platformed’ for doing so.
There is one more point, not mentioned here, which is currently giving me sleepless nights and making me willing to go out there and demand a hearing, even if it ends with me being shouted down nine times out of ten.
Autists at risk
Autistic kids almost always feel uncomfortable with the set of expected behaviours that are based on gender ‘rules’, in the same way they have trouble with many other social rules. If you look at the NHS definition of gender dysphoria, a discomfort with socially imposed gender roles is presented as a sign of someone being transgender. If gender identity is a protected characteristic, not recognising or conforming to gender roles might be suggested to autistic kids as a sign they need puberty blockers, surgery and all the rest of it and, it being a protected characteristic, it will then be illegal for a doctor, teacher or parent to cast doubt on that view. Illegal to say to their child, ‘are you sure you want to go through with this? You may well be feeling alienated because of your autism rather than because of gender mis-assignment.‘
It makes sense to have that protective rule (forbidding questioning perceived identity) for kids who might be gay or lesbian. There is no point in anyone interfering with how they’re feeling, and to argue with their feelings is cruel. There is nothing lost if some kids think they’re gay, try it out and then change their minds so yes, leave possibly-gay and possibly-lesbian kids alone. Let them find out whether they’re gay or not. The same cannot be said of possibly transgender kids who are also possibly autistic and gender-confused.
What you can do
Just think of all the dashed hopes, wasted efforts and back-tracking. Just think of all the heart-aches and medical consequences. Please, please help us with this, rather than shout us down. If your MP is one of the ones rushing to make a stand for GRA, could you contact them? Could you ask them to think about how we deal with autistic kids first, and make sure kids’ doubts about where they fit in are not misunderstood, with all the harm that would entail? Ask your MP for enough time, and enough discussion, for everyone to hear each other’s views and for all of us to understand what we’re doing, and think up appropriate amendments or exclusions to protect those who *will be harmed* if this bill goes through as it stands.
Making mistakes is learning, asking questions is learning
Asking questions is not bigotry. Looking for safeguards and assurances isn’t TERFdom. I continue to support and respect those who, finding themselves unhappy in the role that nature and/or society gave them, trod a long and difficult road to a way of life that works for them. We may not all agree about all the theories it’s all based on but that does not mean we have to be forced into a false ‘trans v TERFs’ battle. That’s not how it is. Trans-activists and feminist-activists are shouting at each other now because someone started shouting months ago, and everyone’s upset. It’s scaring me, it’s scaring you, it’s making it hard for us to find out how it all works, to find a way forward.
If you’ve got ten minutes, this is worth a listen….